Friday, March 26, 2010

Charity on Display

The poster shown above (courtesy of The Smithsonian) was used by the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis to promote its charity a half-century ago. It is meant to tug at your heartstrings; to encourage you to contribute money for a cause.

This past week, our Congress used a similar technique to encourage the passage of healthcare legislation. It used an appeal to charity to get Congressional Representatives to vote for the bill.

It might seem strange, but our anti-Republican culture grants moral authority to the Democratic Party to stand in judgment on issues of charity. The Democratic Party deems who is deserving of charity and who is not.

It’s not that the Democratic Party actually dispenses charity. That function is still reserved for the various religious and non-profit organizations that perform acts of charity with altruism and with no expectation of reward. The Democratic Party uses the display of charity as a political tool.

Examples of the technique were abundant during the floor debate on healthcare last week (3/21/2010). To recap, here is the way the debate played out:

Republican Representatives (working the theme of “bad legislation”):

--This legislation is bad.

--This is a flawed healthcare bill!

Democratic Party Representatives (working the theme of “bad Republicans”):

--Republicans support a healthcare system that harms people such as “my childhood friend who lost his insurance when he got prostate cancer and later died too young.” Similarly, Republicans endorse insurance provisions that “exclude children like my own young daughter Francesca who have chronic conditions.” (Diana DeGette, D-Colorado, at 45:05 in the C-SPAN video.)

--Republican actions resulted in the death of Bill Kohler, “a loving and generous man to his friends, family, and those in need. When he lost his job, he lost his coverage. His new job as a pizza delivery driver earned too much to qualify for Medicaid, and private insurance wasn’t going to cover his pre-existing heart condition. He died last year from a heart attack while driving home.” (Mike Doyle, D-Pennsylvania at 51:11 in the C-SPAN video.)


This emotional argument is effective, as it links Republicans to killing. However, it only works so long as our culture grants moral authority to the Democratic Party to use it. Without that implicit cultural agreement, this style of argument would be mocked.

Watch for the technique when it is used in “human interest” stories in our major newspapers. These stories are typically written about a person or group that is deserving of charity. In most cases (with very few exceptions) the individual writing the article will be a person associated with the Democratic Party.

What’s the point?

It’s that entwining a political party and its associated ideology with the delivery of healthcare services has a dark side to it. When a political party is arguing for who is deserving of healthcare and who is not, you should start to see “red flags” being unfurled.

Did you notice anything about the individuals listed above as “deserving of charity?”

Not one of them is a Republican.

In fact, Republicans are portrayed as those who are denying these deserving individuals their charity. Republicans are the problem!

Think back to the Keith Olbermann piece arguing for charity for his father. Republicans are the problem, and they are characterized as being “ghouls” and “sub-human.” Do you think Keith Olbermann believes Republicans are deserving of healthcare charity?

Granted, that’s a rhetorical question, but keep in mind I had prostate surgery earlier this month. The healthcare system is on my mind. What if in preparation for surgery I looked up and saw that my anesthesiologist was Dr. Howard “I hate Republicans!” Dean? Would I be concerned? (For the record, I would rip out my PICC line and run barefoot and screaming out of the hospital!)

What if I happen to be gay and Jewish and my only chance of obtaining prostate surgery is at a hospital in Iran? Do you think I would be interested in having surgery at a location where the culture has granted the moral authority to its political class to hang me based on my sexual identity and to casually pursue the goal of wiping Israel off the face of the earth?

No, I would be choosing the “watchful waiting” treatment rather than surgery.

OK, enough of the rhetorical questions and histrionics.

This is what I know:

Throughout history, political movements reach a demarcation point. As they become more and more powerful, they cross the line from being just “fascinating” to becoming threatening.

In the twentieth century, we have the examples of Bolshevism and National Socialism. More recently, we’ve seen the rise of the Khmer Rouge and the Taliban. These are political movements, and the Democratic Party has moved from being simply a political party to being a political movement.

Can you hear the Klaxons sounding?

In March of 2010, the American Democratic Party crossed the line.

UPDATE 3/27/2010:
Linked by Tim and the "band of bloggers" at Left Coast Rebel!  Also check out this post by Professor Jacobson at Legal Insurrection.  It seems that when you  label political dissenters as "killers", it makes people angry.

UPDATE 8/13/2012:
The characterization of Republicans as killers has become a rallying cry for the Democratic Party subsequent to Mitt Romney's choice of Paul Ryan for VP.

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